Most of us have heard the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Germany who played his flute and led the rats out of town forever. Many feel the Pied Piper must have been familiar with Valerian and put it in his pockets or rubbed himself with it. Rats love the smell, and it may have been the Valerian, not the music, that enticed the rats to follow him!
The ancients Greeks would hang bundles of valerian in their homes, especially in their windows, to keep evil entities from entering. The Celts believed hanging it their homes would keep lightening from striking.
In magic, it was used in love potions. If worn by a woman, it is said that men would “follow like children.” In English folklore, Valerian was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities and a young woman who carried a sprig of it was said never to lack ardent lovers! It was also believed to possess the ability to increase psychic perception.
Some people claimed that if Valerian was thrown where people (especially a couple) were fighting, they would cease immediately! It is also claimed to tame the wildest of beasts.
In the wizard world of Harry Potter, Valerian was believed to have soporific qualities and was given in teas to encourage sleep.
Interestingly, whilst most people in modern times find the aroma of Valerian to be somewhat challenging, in older times it was obviously thought of as an evocative and at least somewhat desirable scent, as it was used since Biblical times as an incense, where its name was ‘Spikenard’
In the Middle Ages Valerian was widely used to treat epilepsy. The German abbess/herbalist St Hildegard of Bingen wrote warmly on Valerian for sleep in the 12th century and in the 16th century John Gerard wrote that ‘no broth or medicine be worth anything if it did not contain Valerian’ and recommended it for such problems as ‘chest congestion, convulsions, bruises and falls’.
Valerian has been described as the perfect herbal tranquilizer and was used for this purpose in the First World War to treat soldiers suffering from shell-shock; likewise it was prized by Londoners during the Blitz in World War two. The main use of Valerian in in recent times has focused on improving sleep but it is also widely used for nervousness, anxiety, cramps and headaches. To find out more click here.